Is Having Your Baby in a Hospital the Best for You?

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A lot of pregnant moms follow The Beauty Detox Solution lifestyle. I often get questions from them about the many aspects of pregnancy, including nutrition for both mom and baby. One of the more common questions is always what not to eat while pregnant - it always starts with a plant-based diet and wholesome nutrition.

Pregnancy involves many decisions, large and small. While many of the decisions are inconsequential (what color should you paint the nursery?), others can have a lasting effect on your child’s health.

In our society, we assume often certain things about childbirth without really knowing there’s an alternative. For example, there’s a strong societal assumption that you’ll have your baby in a hospital because that’s the safest place for both mom and baby. But is it really?

This is a topic that has long interested me. Home birth is definitely not for everyone, but it is an alternative that should be presented, I believe, just as there are alternatives to what a “traditional” daily diet looks like, as well as to drugs, meds, and surgeries in many cases. Here is also a recent email I received from a reader:

I’d really like to see you post about alternatives to hospital births for babies. Before I got pregnant, I started to do a lot of research, because I really wanted to give my baby the best start possible. I was alarmed at many of the statistics I discovered about hospital births and birth interventions.

My research led me to make numerous non-traditional choices about the birth of my son. Even before I got pregnant, I’d arrived at the conclusion that, barring pregnancy complications, I wanted to have my baby at home with a midwife rather than going the more traditional route of an obstetrician and the hospital. While I was very comfortable with this choice, as was my husband, my family felt quite differently. My sister, who is a nurse practitioner, was very concerned that I was endangering my own health, as well as the health of my baby. As a result, I had a lot of family pressure to “do the right thing;” however, I was very comfortable with the results of all of the research I’d done leading up to my decision.

When I got pregnant, I began seeking recommendations for a licensed midwife. One name kept coming up from both alternative health care professionals and other women who had enjoyed home births: Nancy. When I met with her, I discovered Nancy had been working as a licensed midwife for more than 20 years and had assisted with hundreds of births. She had a birthing center for moms who would feel more comfortable going to a facility, but most of the mothers chose to have their babies at home. Nancy also maintained a close association with an obstetrician and a nearby hospital should birth complications arise.

Nancy was wonderful throughout my pregnancy. In my first few months, I saw her once a month at her center, where she carefully monitored my pregnancy for any of the common complications that can arise such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes. She also provided thorough consultation about nutrition and pregnancy symptoms such as morning sickness. We frequently discussed common birth interventions such as eye drops, vitamin K shots, and immunizations, examining the pros and cons of each. Never did she push her views on me – she merely gave me the information I asked so I could make an informed decision.

As my pregnancy progressed, I began seeing Nancy once per week. She was very clear on what I could expect during both labor and delivery. By the time I was ready to give birth, much of my anxiety about labor had abated.

The night I went into labor, I called Nancy and reported to her the length between contractions, the strength of them, etc. She told me to make myself comfortable, and suggested I call back when the contractions were closer together. I sat up most of the night as the pains intensified and got closer together. Finally, I decided I’d try to sleep and crawled into bed at about 5 a.m. I’d been in bed for about 10 minutes when my water broke. My husband called Nancy, who arrived within just a few minutes.

From that point, my labor and birth took about five minutes. It was fast and relatively easy. I gave birth to a 9-pound baby boy. While it was, of course, uncomfortable giving birth, it wasn’t nearly as painful as I’d imagined. I was able to assume any position I chose to assist the birth, and I didn’t have the stress of having to lie on my back in a hospital for hours hooked up to monitors. Instead, I was comfortable in my own environment and in very good hands.

To this day, my son (who is now 16) is a tremendously healthy kid. He’s been on antibiotics once in his life, and he’s seldom sick. Just the other day, he reminded me he hasn’t missed school due to illness since he was in the eighth grade.

I believe much of his excellent health has to do with the fact that he was born at home naturally, and that I opted out of the traditional birth interventions that are “mandatory” during a hospital birth. Because I could position my body in the way that was most comfortable for me while I was giving birth (and being able to use gravity to your advantage during a home birth as opposed to being on your back and fighting gravity during a hospital birth is a big deal), my son’s birth was relatively quick and quite comfortable.

While I realize home birth isn’t feasible in every situation, I believe it’s a great place for moms-to-be to start. I’ve always thought it odd that, in this country, we treat pregnancy and childbirth like an illness instead of the natural event that it is. Working with a midwife allowed me to experience birth as a natural life event as opposed to an illness requiring medical intervention. I would encourage women to look into the option to discover whether it is the option for them.

What Do Statistics Say?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of cesarean sections in the United States is 32.9 percent. Annually, more than 1.35 million babies are born by c-section. Since 1996, the c-section rate in the United States has risen 53 percent. A 2010 study printed in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology analyzed childbirth data from 19 hospitals across the country between the years of 2002 and 2008. The study showed that approximately 44 percent of the women attempting vaginal delivery were induced, and that once they were the women were twice as likely to deliver by cesarean section. In fact, about half of the c-sections in the study were provided to women whose labor had been induced. Once you’ve had a c-section, the statistics get even grimmer. Only about 16 percent of the women in the study who’d had a previous cesarean section delivered vaginally in subsequent births.

Risks of C-Section

Unfortunately, cesarean sections pose risks for both mother and baby. Mothers’ risks include:

  • Blood loss
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Maternal death
  • Slow recovery
  • Internal scar tissue
  • Increased risk of placental problems

A study printed in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology outlined some of the risks to the baby arising from cesarean section.

  • Twice the rates of transfer to neo-natal intensive care
  • Double the risk of developing a pulmonary disorder
  • Risk of injury during delivery

Of course there are cases where a C-section birth is absolutely warranted. I in fact, who was a 10.5 pound baby, was delivered via C-section. My mother is a very petite woman and the labor was indeed difficult for her. So of course there are no judgments about getting a C-section or not. But one has to wonder why the rate overall has increased so dramatically. Can really one in three women not have a natural birth through the birth canal?  Though most women have the power to birth naturally, do some doctors/hospitals quite automatically schedule C-sections or go to this option, either because they don’t want to risk potential issues leading a lawsuit or they treat vaginal birth as a trauma?

Labor Induction

Even if you don’t have a c-section in the hospital, statistics show that approximately 23 percent of mothers have labor induced in the hospital. Labor induction is not without risks, according to the March of Dimes. These risks include:

  • Increased c-section rates (see above)
  • Uterine rupture
  • Infection
  • Abnormal fetal heart rate
  • Forceps or vacuum extraction
  • Prematurity or jaundice
  • Difficulty feeding or latching

Is Home Birth for Everyone?

Of course, home birth isn’t for everyone. Home births are safest in low-risk pregnancies. Some women, however, should seek more traditional routes, and they feel safer that way which is critical to help reduce anxiety. Complications and conditions that may be contraindicated with home birth include:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Previous pre-term labor

Is Home Birth for You?

Many women who have experienced home births report really enjoying the experience. They like the ability to be in a familiar environment surrounded by the people they love, and with people that give them confidence that their bodies have the power to go through with the birth without medical intervention. They also report enjoying the immediate and ongoing bonding allowed with the baby, since they are at home instead of in a hospital. 

I believe that a woman should be in the position that innately feels right to her during giving birth- rather than just having to be forced to be on her back. Think how much harder it would be to have a bowel movement on your back! In research with home births I’ve found that this position is often on the hands and knees. During the second stage of labor, it is also found that women who squat instead of lie supine increase the size of the vaginal outlet naturally, because this position distributes equal pressure equally throughout the circumference, helping to bring the baby’s head down. Squatting also increases the diameter o the pelvis front to back, and keeps the uterus off the pelvic blood vessels leading to the heart, resulting increased safety for mom and baby.

If you are considering home birth:

  • Find a licensed midwife or nurse-midwife
  • Seek recommendations from other health care professionals
  • Educate yourself about all of your birth options and make the decision that best suits you and your partner
There is so much on this super personal topic. I also recommend the book by legendary midwife Ina May, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, if you are interested in learning more.
Whatever you choose, I am sure it is done with the very best interests of your whole family in mind, so I applaud you for that. Many blessings to you and yours.

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10 Responses to “Is Having Your Baby in a Hospital the Best for You?

  1. I really have enjoyed all the info I have read on your site and will be buying your book. I am however pregnant, eating healthy, and plan to make more changes after our baby gets here. The hardest thing for me is I am a healthy eater, love veggies, but have barely been able to touch them since pregnant so the goal is to get enough calories and sneak veggies into smoothies.
    Either way, I plan to have a hospital birth, home birth just scares me. However I want to have it as natural as possible. So with a lot of research and recommendations I found a doctor in my area that does not like to induce, feels a woman’s body knows what it is doing, and believes in a natural birth and following a woman’s birth plan as close as possible. I feel that there are other natural options out there and becoming more, it just make take research or speaking with doulas to find a doctor or birth center that works best in your situation.

  2. As a mother who had a super healthy, normal, stress/complication free pregancy, the one thing I can recommend to any woman seeking to learn more about delivery options is this: You may try your hardest to plan your child’s birth the way you want it to happen, but when the time comes, your child and body may have a totally different idea. I for one am glad that I was able to deliver in a hospital, with my midwife there, due to unforeseen complications that no amount of healthy foods, exercise, or mental and physical preparation could have made me ready for. And although I did not expect to have an emergency C-section, I was still able to breast-feed (It isn’t as easy as you think ladies!) for a full year and I now make my son homemade organic foods. So although delivery and birth are a huge event that shouldn’t be taken lightly, it’s more about how you take care of yourself during pregnancy, and how you build your child’s nutritional, mental, physical, and emotional foundations afterwards that matter the most!

    So when investigating your options for delivery, keep in mind that it is perfectly reasonable to have an all natural birth at a hospital with a midwife where emergency resources are available to you and your baby without putting either of you at risk to unforeseen complications that may not be dealt with in time at a birthing center or home birth.

    • I agree Same thing happened to me. NO judgements , my bladder was actually attached to my uterus and I had a totally natural birth up until about 4 hrs of pushing. They said its time for a c section. They went in and where my bladder was attached to my uterus(keep in mind that as your pregnancy progresses the uterus grow upward and since my bladder was attached to it it stretched my uterus even more before labor) there was a paper thin uterus they could clearly see my little ones shoulder, ). I knew something was odd but they were very calm and helped us both be safe and healthy.
      I had a totally natural pregnancy and birth(up until described above) so yes things may be different. And to think I opted for a home birth Something inside told me not to.
      Interesting during labor, my water never broke(they tried after 3 hrs) , my baby turned posterior early in labor , I did not pee so many signs that things were going backward. I had a great team 2 midwives, 1 doula , 1 chiropractor, 2 nurses just the best, all could not believe how determined I was to have a natural birth. SO many are quick to judge but I believe it is about researching your options for a home birth but defintiely have an emergency backup plan that does not take more than 5 minutes to get to a hospital if a c section is needed.

      • Oh and I had a great birth plan and they honored everything. I had my baby with me all the time and I went with them when they had to weigh him. no injections nothing against my will They also commented how they were almost going to give him a 10 on apgar score They said they never see this and the doula said the same.

  3. Hi Kimberly,

    First off, I love your site and your mission to promote beauty from a health perspective. Beauty on the outside truly reflects what goes on internally. I’m a NYC-based RN in the NYP Cornell NICU, but I also “daylight” as a Beauty Blogger ;).

    While I think it’s absolutely anyone’s choice whether or not to have a home-birth (skilled midwives are definitely more available now than in the past), I still think that hospitals just provide more resources for any birth. Labor and delivery, after all, is still a very critical and physically stressful event, especially if the mother has medical issues like increased blood pressures, gestational diabetes, thyroid issues, etc…

    Any pregnancy, no matter how healthy, has the same potential dangers, and expectant mothers need all the support they can get from all medical professionals– be it the L&D doctors, nurses, practitioners, midwives, and respiratory therapists. I’ve seen way too many critically ill babies transported to our NICU from home births that may have been avoided. It only takes a few precious moments for danger to creep up in any pregnancy, and the sooner the mother and baby are attended to medically, the better chances of a healthy outcome for both.

    Just thought I’d share some insight! Thanks for bringing up the issue!

  4. Kimberly,

    Thank you so much for all that you do. I have followed The Beauty Detox Solution since before my pregnancy, throughout my pregnancy(somewhat-mostly the green smoothies and food combining rules) and post pregnancy. Thanks to you I had the energy and stamina to birth our baby girl naturally and lose 100% of my pregnancy weight within 4 months. You are amazing and thank you again!!!! :-D

    Brooke

  5. I have birth to my daughter in hospital (in Australia) but was very prepared and knew exactly I wanted my birth to go. It is possible to have a hospital birth and still be I’m control but you need to be very confident in your own ability and not be swayed by medical professionals. I had a 34 hour (posterior) labour, I stayed home for 30 hours and arrived at hospital 5cms dilated and my daughter was born 4 hours later! My midwife knew that I didn’t want any intervention or drugs so it was never offered to me. My birth plan was very clear and all of my wishes were carried out without judgement. Our baby didnt receive the vitamin k injection (dispite the doctors trying to convince us), hep B immunisation or anything else and my placenta was birthed naturally without any drugs to force it out. Everything was so natural and amazing, everyone who witnessed our birth was so excited and amazed to see such a natural birth! Because I didn’t have any drugs I was feeling well enough to go home 7 hours later! For my next birth ill definitely consider a home birth.

  6. I SO wish someone had informed me of my choices when I was young. I’ve had to research so much on my own. I wish I could go back and make different decisions on health, including my 4 children’s births. Since I can’t do that, I’m doing the best I can to educate them on leading a truly healthy life. And while one offered today in a snippy tone, “we never ASKED to be healthy”, I know that one day my boys will thank me!!!

  7. Oh! If the email sender is from Virginia, I am pretty sure I had my daughter (via water birth) with the same midwife just a few years ago! (My) Nancy is still in practice and still wonderful. I run into other Nancy moms practically everywhere I go.

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